Give the Right Stuff
Sure, we are talking about Poetic Memoir so we are recalling what happened in our past. I mentioned photographs, because as writers everything we write comes from a memory which is twisted and turned to fit a situation.
In the case of Poetic Memoirs we are riding on a swing, but there is more to a swing then swinging. Read the opening of my own – full length memoir – “Children Are From Heaven” – where a child is on a swing in the school yard, and other children are watching, she knows it, but doesn’t care. She continues to daydream, and during this time she thinks about something pinned to her dress, her scuffed shoes, and the pole lifting up and out of the ground the higher and harder she pumps. She talks about the steeple in the distance, but always turning her attention to those who stare.
So where did I get my memories for this? Well, I took a look at my neighborhood, where I grew up, and I thought about the people I would see every day as a child. I realized people stared, especially older people, especially at all the children. Perhaps they were afraid we would pick a flower, mark up their sidewalk to play hopscotch, sneak through their yard; a shortcut home. Perhaps they were strange characters, as I have pointed out many times around my neighborhood. But, although parents tell us someone is odd, do we always believe it? In my case, no – I learned the truth about the lady who sat on her porch and called out to me on the way home from school, and why she popped bowl after bowl of popcorn. I found out another neighbor, husband and wife, detested each other and explained why their hate for one another turned to a disaster for some of the children in the neighborhood.
I keep telling you to read what you want to write. Put on the same pair of shoes and travel, while you are traveling you are taking notes, comparing how it was when you were seven, kicking dirt at those girls who stared. Walking home alone or perhaps you walked home from school with a gang of friends, but were they all friends?
It is necessary to get down to details, especially when you are cutting a memoir into a poetic memoir. We don’t need all the extra words, we need detail, format fitting for a presentation or reading.
When I taught Author Presentation I made up my own list of markings; as a student stood to read I probably stopped them after the first sentence, and told them to start again. We all knew it was my style, but they all knew when they left the class they would be able to present their work, no matter the genre. Because presenting work is different from the written novel or poetry, we want Poetic Memoir. Give the story in fewer words, detail, life experience, and listen, listen, listen to what you write. I can’t say this enough. You will hear your flaws. Every form of writing should flow. Everyone should be able to capture the listener’s ear. Poets love to read their work, give them the right stuff.